The price of success

OpenOffice.org 3.0 has been a huge success, and this has raised the awareness of the open source office suite to an unprecedented level. In Europe, where OOo was already quite popular, especially in France, Germany and Italy, download numbers have reached new records. In Italy, they are now higher than the number of new PCs sold in the country, as they probably are in France and Germany (although I don’t have PC figures for these two countries).

Unfortunately, success of information technology products doesn’t seem to come for free, and OpenOffice.org doesn’t represent an exception to this rule. Since the launch of version 3.0, on October 13, 2008, someone has deliberatedly tried to hack – which in this case means increase – download numbers of the Italian version, using a script that pings several mirrors thousands of times during the day.

I access the download statistics on a daily basis, as a human being, and I copy the numbers inside my Calc spreadsheet to keep track of the progress. Downloads are a key measurement of OpenOffice.org success, although they represent a trend and can’t be compared with licenses. This means that I am extremely careful in picking numbers when they don’t follow a logical trend (i.e., an increase – not a jump – after the announcement of each new version, and then a slow decrease).

Andrea Pescetti, co-maintainer of the Italian linguistic project, who has a number crunching mindset, monitors the numbers thanks to a zillion PHP scripts. When there’s a deviation from standards, he usually raises a red flag. Most of the times, we ignore the numbers that we don’t trust, even if this means that we ignore several “real” downloads.

In 2008, we have “cancelled” close to 300.000 downloads in November and early December.

With the announcement of OpenOffice.org 3.0.1, downloads are back to crazy. During last week, we have cancelled over 300.000 of them. Unfortunately, in order to avoid the dissemination of wrong assumptions, we’ve had to stop the counter on Associazione PLIO’s web site as it was based on raw data.

Until new notice, we will announce download figures only at the end of each month.

Just to summarize:

  1. We will continue to announce download figures, as they are definitely lower than the real numbers (not only because we ignore the fake ones but also because there are “unofficial” mirrors which are not monitored by the system, in addition to Linux repositories, covermount CDs, USB keys, etcetera).
  2. We will continue to amend download figures with a very conservative mindset, as we don’t need to increase numbers which are already growing beyond any expectation (for those who still believe that we are a bunch of naive people, we do have “real” analysts data in our hands – we do have some good friends – which we don’t use just because there is already enough evidence in the market about the success of OpenOffice.org).
  3. The intentional and repeated hacking of OpenOffice.org downloads confirms that the success of the open source office suite is making a dent somewhere in the office suite ecosystem. I am sure that enterprises are completely unaware of what is happening, as it might damage – first and foremost – their reputation.

Let’s have fun !!!

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